Superconduction is overrated. Dr. Merrill thought as he finished the final proofreading pass of his patent brief for their lawyer, the culmination of his life’s work. Although he had thought that same thing with each successive breakthrough, each time being overshadowed by his next step. His lawyer and partner had urged him to keep all of this a trade secret until a market ready prototype could be patented, to maximize the profitability of their startup.
But they had all been leading towards something. Something that now sat on his desk, next to the laptop that contained all of his research. A true super-capacitor. It looked like a homemade car battery, but fully charged it could hold the energy equivalent of a few tons of TNT. In a few weeks they would have one ready for mass production, the hard work had been done. All that was left really was choosing aesthetics.
The secret had been the development of a super-resistor. A polymer chain that did not allow electricity to pass through in any measure-able quantity until a breakdown voltage which, for a nanometer thin film was measured with the prefix giga. That value had of course, never been proven in a laboratory because a voltage has never been produced of that magnitude by man-made means.
He had spent years on it, after accidentally discovering the polymer in the lab. Countless months devising how to coat it onto a layer of gold, then devising how to coat thin layers of gold onto it. In all the surface area of the gold layers in his capacitor was measured in square miles. All this meant that a car running off this small fifty-pound capacitor could drive across the United States and back without needing to recharge, and if properly designed would leave a formula one gasoline car in the dust.
The energy density this capacitor was capable of storing was rivaled only by tritium, and it didn’t decay like tritium. Capacitors are the electrical equivalent of springs, and as with any spring there is a limit to how far they can be stretched. This one, could seemingly be stretched forever and still whip back.
It would revolutionize everything. No longer would phones by held back by bulky chemical batteries. Electric cars would be cheaper, longer- ranged and faster than their gasoline powered brothers. A resurgence of prop-driven or fan-driven aircraft might emerge, dropping the price of air travel, and most importantly, alternative energy would finally become far superior to fossil fuels in every regard. Climate change could be halted, and so would the environmentally devastating effects of battery manufacture, from the mining to the disposal, as the chemical battery was dead. The polymer itself wasn’t the most eco-friendly substance, but everything it would disrupt was far worse.
The man, a half mile away, on a hillside disguised as a patch of grass watching Dr. Merrill through a telescopic scope didn’t know any of this. What he saw was another old man whose death presented a lucrative opportunity. His partner at the agency had already implanted a virus on the old man’s computers at home and in the lab, using a simple phishing attack on his intern. He’d spoofed a notice from the intern’s student loan provider, which would direct him to the provider's website, after passing through a virus embedding landing page. From there he had gained access to all of the lab’s files. In a few seconds, a burst of light, outside the visible range, would emanate from his muzzle, and Merrill would drop with a cauterized hole through his brain.
Then Agent Slater, the grass-man on the hill, would message his partner, who would press delete. And they, contractors for Global Solutions Systems Holdings would be paid handsomely for their services. No evidence would be left behind, the hard drives would all wipe themselves completely clean. There’d be no bullet. They could trace the trajectory of the laser shot back to this spot, where they’d find broken twigs and maybe some cotton fibers of no unique features. They’d know someone lay here, but not who.
The why, something Slater knew better than to ever ask, was because the Doctor’s partner had been courting investors, and in courting them had revealed how disruptive the technology would be for a great many sectors of the economy. The oil cartels put a hit on him. An underworld, deep pocket, multimillion dollar hit.
As Merrill’s head slapped the desk, Slater pulled out a cheap ten-mile range push-to-talk radio and pressed the call button. The call was received by everyone on his channel, most notably another radio which was plugged into the data port on his personal cellphone, which was parked at a restaurant five miles away. When it received the call signal, it instructed his cell to send a text message to his partner’s cell which read, “I’m at Loco Taco, you want anything?”
His partner received the text and pressed play on his virus, deleting everything, exactly as planned. A second shot was emitted from Slater’s laser pulse rifle, making a slight click as its far inferior capacitor discharged. It melted the case of the capacitor, shorting it between the pates, causing an electrical discharge which lit the room on fire.
It all went off without a hitch, except for one minor detail.
The intern at the lab, who’d only gotten the job because of family connections, actually knew the entire project inside and out. The college freshman may not have known the complex quantum mechanics involved, and why things were done certain ways, but they had been there through every step of building it and had handwritten notes.